CL: Do you really believe that God’s going to postpone His blessing and work in the church because of our lack of unity?
TE: Absolutely. That’s a fundamental principle. He does this in a number of places in Scripture: Ephesians 2, Ephesians 3:10. So the oneness issue is not a sideline issue. It’s not even a sideline issue in the family. God says that when the husband and wife are divided, tell the husband, “Don’t bother to pray.” God’s not listening (1 Peter 3:7).
So the issue of unity has everything to do with God’s absence or presence. God first checks with the church house before He does anything with the White House. We want things to be better in the country, and God can’t even get them better on Sunday morning. And one of the major divisions is racial, so in light of all this, I think that this was the time to make a big call for unity.
This is why I believe God has ingrained the church so deeply in American history. Not because we are any more holy than any other nation, but because we are natural reformers...because we tackle the big, ugly questions of human existence head on. Because we do not settle for the oft-misguided comfort of tradition and custom. I believe the political and racial division in this country is an opportunity for the church to show the world what a real miracle is.
What I like most about the interview, and what I hope the book expounds on (just downloaded...woo!), is actual action steps. I've heard people lament the segregation of the church, but the discussion usually stops there--and that's because most of us are happy with it. Not just ok. Happy.
If you ask most people, their peer group is full of people like them on some level. People like being around other people like them. It makes them feel normal, accepted and safe. That's important, but at some point, both in and out of the church, a maturing person and Christian has to walk past satisfaction with comfort and aim for something higher.
I personally have an abnormally diverse peer group. Race, age, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, income, intelligence level, belief in God, physical ability...but I have one big bias...introverts. I LOVE people like me on that spectrum. Extroverts ..I can say all I want about understanding their usefulness, but that comes from little more than half-hearted rationalization and knee-jerk efforts to be inclusive so that I feel even-handed and...nice. I don't enjoy being around extreme extroverts. Not even smart ones, or Black ones, or single ones or...you get it. I have a few friends that are extrovert-lite, but no one I know is extreme. That is a failing on my part. I'm not saying I should be able to totally revamp the contacts list in my phone, but Jesus should be enough and I should, as a mature Christian, be able to get past my own biases against the personality type and form genuine bonds. I've just met a new VERY extroverted Christian friend and, well, we'll see. That though, ties into the comment Dr. Evans made that integrating the church isn't about congregations holding events together, but instead about people extending themselves into new types of relationships in their individual lives.
I'll admit one of the saddest things in my life. I find more connection, more acceptance, more comfort in the world of Brazilian jiu jitsu than I do and ever have in the church--any church, Black or White. I believe quite firmly that that is because the primary focus of those that train is training. It is dedication to the art. The church, with its deeply entrenched history of absorbing the faults of the world (it didn't start with attitudes toward sex) does not have the luxury of a brutally honest or physically and emotionally painful acceptance process. There is no filter for the church doors...as I believe it should be. The issue there though is, that people stay for reasons that have nothing to do with the faith.
I know that I am able to tolerate being an outlier because I've been conditioned to make my peace with discomfort. I have no expectations of feelings of belonging in any sphere accept personal relationships. I have always, and likely will always, feel like an alien observer. I don't expect this to come easily to others though, because my life has been a rare one, possibly even moreso because of my personality type than my racial and cultural experiences.
So yes, I do, very much agree with the words Tony Evans has written and I'm hoping reading his book will help me find some peace in this area, because right now, I have little.